Earlier this week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced a new pilot program called Checkpoint Evolution. The new procedure will be tested at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) and directly affect Sikh Americans in the DC-Metropolitan area.
On March 21, 2008, SALDEF was one of a select group of organizations invited to evaluate the new screening procedure before it was publicly announced by TSA. As per TSA, the new screening procedure is designed to be more "soothing" for the passenger whereby allowing behavioral officers to better identify potential threats to the nation’s airports.
From start to finish, this new procedure combines increased technology with relaxing sounds and visual effects for the traveling public. The increased use of visual placards informs passengers of their responsibilities and the use of better technology could allow passengers to move through security faster and be screened more efficiently.
For the moment at BWI, the screening procedure remains the same for Sikh Americans. The significant difference is, if the metal detector alarms, the traveler has the choice to either walk through a Whole Body Imaging Machine, thereby potentially forgoing any physical contact with the turban, or be patted down by a TSA officer.
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SALDEF applauds TSA in developing a new screening process which would generally refrain TSA officers from touching the Sikh turban.
I know that airport screening and head coverings of any kind can bring trouble. Let's hope that this will help alleviate some of that trouble for those who don't want to uncover at the airport - for non-threatening reasons of course.